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Written Answers

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 26 October 2006

Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 26 October 2006

Transport

Parliamentary Questions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will answer Question 95494, on Crossrail, tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon on 17 October 2006 for named day Answer on 20 October. (97376)

Driving Licences

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many older pensioners in Hendon have availed themselves of the cheaper driving licence arrangements. (96931)

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has issued a total of 3,160,380 free licences in Great Britain for drivers aged 70 and over since the renewal fee for these drivers was abolished on 1 March 2004.

In the period from 1 March 2004 to 31 January 2006, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency issued 2,872 licences to drivers aged over 70 in the Hendon parliamentary constituency. This figure includes both licence renewals and licences issued to newly qualified drivers aged 70 and over.

Highways Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of customer use of the Traffic England Highways Agency website. (96717)

Customer use of the Traffic England Highways Agency website is assessed in three ways. First, monthly usage figures are obtained for the number of visitors to the site and the number of pages viewed on each visit; second, a questionnaire is available on the website inviting customer feedback; and third, the Agency collates telephone calls and e-mail it receives about the site.

In September 2006, the site received 280,000 visitors, who downloaded 2.2 million pages of information. Over 71 per cent. of users giving feedback rated the site either useful or extremely useful, and over 95 per cent. stated the site had influenced a recent journey.

Road Schemes (Emissions)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what methodology was used to calculate the carbon impact of road schemes for data on carbon emissions submitted to the Environmental Audit Committee following the Secretary of State’s evidence on 14 June. (96821)

The Department set out the methodology used in its supplementary evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee published alongside the Committee’s report in August. Further details are available from the Committee’s website at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmenvaud/981/6061408.htm

Rolling Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many slam-door carriages are still in use on the railway network. (96947)

Of the traditional ‘slam door’ fleets only a handful of vehicles are now operated under exemption by franchised passenger operators. These include the two Class 421 three-car electrical multiple units operated on the Lymington branch line by South West Trains, and the two single-car Class 121 diesel multiple units operated by Chiltern Railways and Arriva Trains Wales on the Aylesbury—Princess Risborough and Cardiff Queen Street—Cardiff Bay routes respectively. All are fitted with central door locking.

In addition, though not ‘slam door’ stock, there are currently around 1200 locomotive hauled coaches used in passenger service by franchised passenger operators. The majority of these coaches have hinged doors which are opened and closed manually at stops and central door locking operated by the guard. The exception is Mark 4 coaches which comprise around 260 of this total and have power operated sliding doors.

Transport Infrastructure

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what total (a) Government and (b) private funding for transport infrastructure was in each of the last 30 years at today’s prices; and what projected spending is for the next three years. (93668)

[pursuant to the reply, 17 October 2006, Official Report, c. 1137-38W]: The figures for 2003-04 and 2004-05 are as follows:

Public and private funding for transport infrastructure, 2003-04 to 2004-05

£ Million (2004-05 prices)

2003-04

2004-05

Road infrastructure

Public

4,307

4,660

Private

42

69

Total

4,350

4,729

Rail infrastructure

5,329

4,272

Ports infrastructure

318

202

Airports and air traffic control

Public1

72

63

Private1

1,411

1,432

Total

1,483

1,495

1 Investment in NATS switched from public to private funding between 2000-01 and 2001-02.

House of Commons Commission

Energy Efficiency

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment the Commission has made of the extent to which heating and ventilation systems in each building on the parliamentary estate (a) are controllable by individual users, (b) are energy efficient and designed to prevent heat leakage and (c) maintain comfortable temperature and humidity levels in varying weather conditions; and what plans exist to improve such systems. (97142)

A cyclical programme of surveys is carried out on parliamentary estate buildings and their services. Consultants are currently undertaking detailed surveys of the building services in the Palace of Westminster. A feasibility study is under way to explore methods of renewing the existing heating and ventilation system which is now largely 50-years-old for the Palace of Westminster. There are also plans to carry out building services surveys and option studies for the major refurbishment of the heating and ventilation systems of Canon Row, Derby Gate and Norman Shaw North in the near future.

The House authorities are aware that the heating and ventilation systems on a number of the buildings on the parliamentary estate are reaching the end of their economic life:

(a) Local control of radiator temperatures is only available in some areas of the parliamentary estate.

(b) The majority of buildings on the parliamentary estate were constructed in the 19th century when energy efficiency was not a major design consideration and much of the building stock is inherently energy inefficient. Work is currently in place to explore ways to enhance the buildings’ energy efficiency.

(c) A programme of services upgrade works is ongoing across the estate to renew plant and services.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Welfare

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the Government's policy is on the export of young calves for slaughter abroad; (94264)

(2) what steps he is taking to encourage British farmers to rear calves to produce high quality British veal;

(3) what assessment the Government has made of the attitudes of the public to the export of young calves for slaughter abroad.

I am aware of the public concern over the trade in live calf exports; it is generating a high volume of letters to the Department. However, this is a lawful trade and European Union (EU) law must be observed. The United Kingdom (UK) cannot place a unilateral ban on the export of calves. All exports must meet the necessary animal health and welfare rules.

This Government are committed to the welfare of animals and have played a key role in improving EU rules on transport since 1996 when the export trade in live calves from the UK ceased. New EU-wide welfare in transport rules will come into force in January 2007 providing further improvements. We are seeking to encourage the industry to develop alternative uses for calves other than live export, and welcome the joint initiative from Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to bring together welfare groups, the dairy and beef industry and the retail sector to discuss this issue. They hosted an event in July which I attended.

The industry has developed domestic veal rearing systems that satisfy robust welfare requirements, but the opportunities to sell the product in the UK are very limited. Conversely, dairy farmers are now driven by the strong commercial demand for veal calves on the continent. The Department commissioned a study to look at the economic drivers and potential for developing alternative markets to the export of veal calves. The report confirmed that the domestic market for home produced veal is resistant to growth. It did, however, conclude that there are commercially attractive opportunities for rearing dairy calves for the growing domestic market for manufacturing beef. This is promising and Defra will continue to play its part in encouraging such alternative uses.

International Whaling Commission

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will press for Iceland's expulsion from the International Whaling Commission following the announcement that it intends to resume commercial whaling; and if he will make a statement. (95658)

The UK will continue to protest at the highest diplomatic level against Iceland’s activities. I have called the Icelandic ambassador to my office to explain this decision and to voice our strong opposition to Iceland’s commercial whaling. We will continue our efforts, along with other countries, to urge Iceland to reconsider their position and reverse this unjustified and unnecessary decision.

However, there are no provisions within the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) that provide for the exclusion of parties who are considered to have broken the rules. It is debatable whether Iceland’s action could reasonably be considered a breach of its treaty obligations, since it was taken under a formal Reservation made by Iceland on rejoining the International Whaling Commission in 2002. However, the UK’s formal objection to Iceland’s reservation to article 10(e) of the ICRW (the part enforcing the moratorium) remains.

Rurality

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will discuss with his Cabinet colleagues means of enabling the provision of departmental data broken down according to his Department's definition of rurality; and if he will make a statement. (94460)

A research project co-sponsored by several Government departments and other bodies resulted in the publication of the “National Statistics Rural and Urban Definition 2004”. This new rural definition identifies the different types of settlements in which people live in rural areas. The definition can be used with other information, such as housing type, car ownership and household incomes to give a valid means of understanding how these measures vary within rural areas.

The new definition is accepted across Government, and is recognised as the Government standard by the Office for National Statistics. It was agreed after a public web-based validation exercise, and marks a big step forward in developing our evidence base and statistical toolkit for rural areas.

I have written recently to Ministers to promote the further use of the definition in their Departments’ work.

Wales

Farm Subsidies

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what the total level of subsidies given by the Government to farmers in Wales was in each of the last ten years; and what each figure represents per farmer. (93948)

The Welsh Assembly Government have published provisional figures for subsidies paid out to Welsh farmers in 2005. I have made this document available in the Library. The final figures will be published in due course. Equivalent information for the preceding nine years could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

The Welsh Assembly Government are committed to ensuring greater transparency in the publication of farm subsidy data. Accordingly, it recently announced its intention to publish such data by postcode. The data will also be subdivided to show the breakdown between all claims submitted under the 2005 single payment application form.

Work and Pensions

Child Support Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the (a) reviews and (b) consultations relating to the Child Support Agency undertaken since 1997; and the total cost of each to his Department. (90198)

The information is not available in the format requested as the current accounting system of the Department for Work and Pensions does not enable us to associate costs to individual or discrete activities. Such information as is available is as follows:

The following reviews have taken place since 1997:

Review by Stephen Geraghty, Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency between April and December 2005.

Sir David Henshaw redesign took place between February and July 2006. Estimated costs for this review were published on page 66 of the report “Recovering child support: routes to responsibility”. (Cm 6894)

The following consultation exercises have taken place since 1997:

The Child Support Green Paper, CHILDREN FIRST: a new approach to child support (Cm 3992) was published in July 1998.

The Child Support White Paper—A New Contract for Welfare: Children’s Rights and Parents’ Responsibilities (Cm 4349), published on 1 July 1999.

A fresh start: child support redesign—the Government response to Sir David Henshaw (Cm 6895), published on 24 July 2006.

Departmental Dress Code

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department’s policy is on the display of religious (a) artefacts, (b) symbols and (c) dress by its staff; how many staff have been subject to disciplinary proceedings regarding this policy in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. (95640)

The Department for Work and Pensions respects the beliefs and religions of all its staff. It does not have a specific policy on the display of religious artefacts, symbols or dress by its staff.

The Department has a standards of behaviour policy that allows its businesses to set dress standards that it expects staff to follow, though there are none that relate specifically to the wearing of religious dress, artefacts or symbols. All staff are expected to present themselves in a professional and business-like way.

The Department is very much committed to promoting equality and valuing diversity within the workplace and where possible facilities for prayer or quiet contemplation are provided for staff to use.

All managers are made aware of the Departmental guidance on enabling staff to observe religious obligations and festivals. Faith awareness training is delivered for staff through a learning and development toolkit, which provides information on religious beliefs, observances and practices.

No staff have been subject to disciplinary proceedings regarding this and it is not a category for which the Department gathers any statistics.

Financial Assistance Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate the Government have made of the cost of extending the financial assistance scheme in line with the recommendations from the parliamentary ombudsman’s report on occupational pension schemes. (92016)

We estimate the cost of implementing the ombudsman’s recommendations to be between £13 and £17 billion, in cash terms, over 60 years (or between £2.9 billion and £3.7 billion, net present value).

Culture, Media and Sport

Judo

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps she has taken to resolve the dispute between the Bristol Judo Association and the Save Independent Judo campaign; what further action she proposes; and if she will make a statement. (97283)

The Save Independent Judo campaign has written a number of letters to the Department about the development of the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) in judo and the role of the British Judo Association (BJA). In June, I replied, explaining that I had asked my officials to look into the issues raised. In August, I provided a substantive reply, clarifying some of the background and the role of sports coach UK and the BJA in taking the issues forward.

Save Independent Judo has continued to correspond with the Department. We have ensured that Sports Coach UK, who are responsible for developing and implementing the UKCC, UK Sport and Sport England are aware of their various concerns. We will continue to work with these organisations to ensure that, where appropriate, these issues are addressed.

Olympic Games

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what locations in the London Borough of Bexley (a) were considered to be used to stage an event and (b) are being considered for training sites for athletes for the 2012 London Olympics. [96599]

In order to host a compact Olympic games and Paralympic games as required by the International Olympic Committee, venues for the 2012 London games are, wherever practical, situated as close as possible to the Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley. As a result no facilities within the London borough of Bexley were able to be considered as competition venues.

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic games and Paralympic games (LOCOG) is preparing a pre-games training guide in which facilities that it has approved as providing a suitable training environment in the UK are listed by location and by sport. The development of this guide will be overseen by a steering group, made up of organisations such as the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association, the English Institute of Sport, UK Sport and the home nation sport councils.

Venues from around the UK, including those situated within the London borough of Bexley, are invited to apply to host pre-games training camps through the LOCOG website:

<http://www.london2012.com/en/gettinginvolved/trainingcamps/Applicationprocess.htm>

Applications will initially be assessed on a national or regional basis, and the deadline for facilities to submit their interest is 31 January 2007. Final selection will take place by January 2008 and the guide will be distributed to national Olympic committees and national Paralympic committees in summer 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) whether a decision has been made regarding use of the Olympic stadium following the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games; what the role is of the Minister for Sport in that decision; and if she will make a statement; (97188)

(2) whether (a) the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, (b) the Olympic Delivery Authority and (c) her Department are considering alternative plans for the Olympic stadium that significantly depart from the London 2012 Candidate File's proposition to convert the stadium into a 25,000 seat multi-purpose venue with athletics at its core; and if she will make a statement;

(3) what steps she plans to take to ensure that following the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games the Olympic stadium continues to feature and support athletics events; and if she will make a statement.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is procuring the Olympic stadium. As the explanatory document published in July by the ODA made clear, in legacy mode we intend that it will be a 25,000-seater stadium with athletics at its core, consistent with the commitment set out in the London 2012 Candidate File. The ODA has appointed consultants who, in consultation with Olympic stakeholders, sporting bodies and the local community, are scoping the different possible community uses for the stadium with a view to drawing up a business plan for future use of the stadium. A wide range of options consistent with our Candidate File commitment is currently under consideration. Any decision on legacy use of the stadium will be made by the Olympic board on which I am the Government's representative.

Trade and Industry

Business Start-ups

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many new business start-ups there were in (a) the East of England, (b) Suffolk and (c) Bury St. Edmunds constituency in each year since 1997. (95447)

Value added tax (VAT) registrations and de-registrations are the best official guide to the pattern of business start-ups and closures. DTI data on the number of VAT registrations, and the start of year stock of VAT registered businesses, in East of England Government office region, Suffolk county and Bury St. Edmunds constituency from 1997 to 2005 are shown in the following table. Data for 2006 will be available autumn 2007.

VAT registrations and start of year VAT stock

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

East of England

Registrations

18,330

17,540

16,845

17,630

16,655

17,820

18,735

17,815

17,790

n/a

Stock

162,430

166,865

170,695

173,515

176,310

177,735

180,080

182,705

184,525

187,625

Suffolk County

Registrations

2,035

1,890

1,855

2,060

1,885

2,100

2,160

2,085

1,915

n/a

Stock

20,835

21,265

21,535

21,765

22,145

22,300

22,610

22,935

23,240

23,460

Bury St. Edmunds1

Registrations

295

270

270

325

260

325

320

345

320

n/a

Stock

3,185

3,250

3,320

3,345

3,420

3,440

3,535

3,580

3,665

3,720

1 Parliamentary constituency. Source: Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994-2005, Small Business Service, available from http://www.sbs.gov.uk/vats

Although the number of registrations in Bury St. Edmunds constituency has remained fairly constant, the start of year stock has risen by 17 per cent. over the period.

VAT registration and de-registration data do not capture all business activity. Businesses are unlikely to be registered if their turnover falls below the compulsory VAT threshold, which has risen in each year since 1997. Similarly, businesses that de-register may not have closed. Only 1.8 million out of 4.3 million businesses (42 per cent.) were registered for VAT at the start of 2005.

Departmental Childcare Facilities

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether there are waiting lists for places at child care facilities which his Department provides for its employees. (89607)

The DTI does not hold long-term waiting list for places for the DTI play-schemes. If the DTI play-schemes are over-subscribed on any given day, a list of requests for that date is kept on a first come first served basis. If a place becomes available, the place is offered to the next child on the list.

Digital Television

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the implications for electricity demand of digital switchover. (96130)

Digital switchover is expected to have implications for both transmitter power usage and consumer power usage. The Government’s assessment is that the replacement of the analogue terrestrial transmission network with a nationwide digital terrestrial television network will lead to a net reduction in energy usage by the transmission networks of 186 GWh per year. Completion of switchover is expected to result in an increase in consumer energy use of between 966GWh and 2816GWh per annum, primarily due to the expected increase in the take up of set-top boxes. This is equivalent to a 0.37 per cent. increase in domestic electricity consumption. The Government’s overall estimate for the total impact of switchover is a net increase of 1705GWh per year.

Further details are contained in the ‘Regulatory and Environmental Impact Assessment: the timing of digital switchover’, published on 16 September 2005. This was placed in the House Library at the time of publication, and is also available at:

www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk.

Enterprise Campaign Coalition

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the work of the Enterprise Campaign Coalition. (96417)

The Enterprise Campaign Coalition consists of 26 key national partner organisations with a common interest in promoting enterprise. During 2006, the work of Enterprise Campaign Coalition has been distributed between three groups:

(a ) Strategic framework sub-group:

This group has developed a prospectus called ‘Fuelling Enterprise Culture’ which was launched on 11 October 2006. It is a national call to action for different sectors to ‘mainstream’ the engagement of young people in enterprise.

(b ) Youth enterprise support sub-group:

This group has been looking at the needs of young people thinking about setting up their own business or social enterprise. It will produce a report about the direction that business support needs to take to better meet the needs of young people. This report is expected in early 2007.

(c) Enterprise education sub-group:

This group has been looking at the role of education. The group has identified six broad challenges and recently commissioned a brief mapping exercise of strategic projects/initiatives designed to improve the effectiveness of enterprise education across schools, colleges and universities. Subject to the findings of this mapping exercise, the group will be identifying areas where it can collectively add value in driving forward enterprise education.

Enterprise Insight

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the Answer of 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 1028W, on Enterprise Insight, whether all the local and sectoral enterprise campaign hubs are now fully functional; whether Enterprise Insight’s recruitment process has now been completed; and what the cost has been of the recruitment process. (96414)

Enterprise Insight advises that of the five local hubs, Coventry and Liverpool are fully functional; Lowestoft, Wakefield and Teesside are not.

Of the three sectoral hubs, retail is fully functional; creative industries and manufacturing are not.

Of the 21 Enterprise Insight staff posts involved in these hubs, 15 are in post, 3 are appointed but have yet to start, and 3 have yet to be appointed. In addition, resources equivalent to four staff are being made available through agreements with partner organisations in Coventry and Lowestoft.

Enterprise Insight expects all hubs to fully functional by early 2007.

Enterprise Insight advises that the cost to date of the recruitment to the 21 posts is £117,000.

Furniture Industry

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many civil servants in his Department have particular responsibility for promoting the furniture industry. (96601)

A range of staff across the Department work on issues related to the UK furniture industry; staff in Business Relations, UK Trade International and Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate work to help the sector on issues such as productivity, exporting, standards and fair competition.

Heat Pumps

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the implications for the UK strategy for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of more widespread introduction of heat pumps in the domestic sector. (96127)

Future Energy Solutions produced a report for DTI and DEFRA (“Renewable Heat and Heat from Combined Power Plants—Study and Analysis”) which assessed the carbon saving potential of various sources of renewable heat, including ground source heat pumps. This study suggests that if ground source heat pumps were installed in all off-gas grid residential properties, carbon savings of around 3.9MtC/year could be achieved. No such assessment has been made of the potential of air source or water source heat pumps.

Symposium on International Nuclear Safeguards

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what participation his Department had in the Symposium on International Nuclear Safeguards held at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna 16 to 20 October; and whether the Government provided resources in support of the Symposium. (97208)

A representative from the Safeguards Office in my Department attended this Symposium. In addition, my Department funded the attendance of the UKAEA co-ordinator of the UK Support Programme (UKSP) to IAEA Safeguards, and the participation of four personnel from industry and academia who gave presentations on work they have conducted under the UKSP.

North West Regional Development Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the North West regional development agency is providing any funding for a study to establish whether Lancaster Castle prison can become a tourist attraction. (96703)

[holding answer 24 October 2006]: No. The North West regional development agency has not received any such proposal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether members of Vision Boards can remain on them without attending meetings. (96635)

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many vision board managers are employed on a consultancy basis. (96639)

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many vision boards there are in the North West Regional Development Agency. (96640)

The North West Development Agency has encouraged the establishment of three Vision Boards in Preston, Lancaster and Burnley.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much has been spent on the vision boards set up by the North West regional development agency. (96701)

The North West regional development agency has encouraged the establishment of vision boards in Preston, Burnley and Lancaster. The agency has provided the following funding to the vision boards:

£

Preston

457,000

Lancaster

200,000

Burnley

178,000

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice the Northwest Regional Development Agency has given to Lancaster Vision Board regarding funding for a study to establish whether Lancaster prison can be closed and the castle turned into a tourist attraction. (96630)

The Northwest Regional Development Agency has advised the Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board that any proposal seeking agency funding should be submitted as part of an action plan in support of the Lancaster and Morecambe Vision. All such proposals should also feature in the sub-regional action plans developed by the Lancashire Economic Partnership. This demonstrates sub-regional priority in delivering the Regional Economic Strategy.

The agency has not received a funding proposal in respect of Lancaster Castle.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what role the area manager from the Northwest Regional Development Agency plays on the Lancaster Vision Board. (96631)

The Northwest Regional Development Agency’s area manager attended Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board meetings as an observer and advised the board on matters relating to delivery of the Regional Economic Strategy and agency policy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much the Lancaster and Morecambe Vision document cost to reproduce. (96633)

The Lancaster and Morecambe Vision documents cost a total of £20,819. This covered:

design;

consultation/promotion;

website posting;

5,000 full version copies; and

2,000 abridged version copies.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board was set up. (96634)

The Northwest Regional Development Agency first proposed the idea of a Vision Board for Lancaster and Morecambe to the local authority and key private sector representatives on 22 March 2004. Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board first met on 26 May 2004.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board is responsible for (a) ensuring that effective delivery vehicles are in place to implement the regeneration strategy for the area and (b) the delivery of the economic vision and strategy for the Lancaster and Morecambe area. (96636)

The Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board has no responsibility for either ensuring effective delivery vehicles are in place or for the delivery of the economic vision and strategy for Lancaster and Morecambe. Its role is to provide innovative and visionary support and advice with a strong private sector input.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who the representatives are on Lancaster Vision Board; and which sector each represents. (96638)

Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board members are as follows:

Name

Organisation

Sector

Paul Wellings

Lancaster University

Higher Education

Trevor Bargh

Charter Solutions

Marketing consultancy

Ian Barker

Lancaster City Council

Elected representative

Janet Barton

Lancashire Economic Partnership

Sub-region

Amanda Belcham Dukes

Theatre

Cultural industries

Jim Birkett

Fanny House Farm

Agriculture/NFU

Martyn Butlin

British Energy

Energy generation

Jim Catterall

Craigwell Hotel

Tourism

Helen Child

GTP

IT/financial services

Mark Cullinan

Lancaster City Council

Local authority

John Donnellon

Lancaster City Council

Local authority

Nicholas Gillibrand

Mason Gillibrand

Architectural Practice

Hazel Harding

Lancashire County Council

Elected representative

Roger Horn

Port Commission

Property/waterways

Allan Kenny

Reebok/Consultant

Distribution/Chamber of Commerce

Nairn Munshi

Sultan of Lancaster

Leisure

Alison Page

Furniture Matters

Social enterprise

Geraldine Smith

MP

Elected representative

David Taylor

Irvine Taylor

Property/Chamber of Commerce

John Walden

In Touch

IT/manufacturing

Ben Wallace

MP

Elected representative

Lois Willis

Consultant

Health/Creative Industries

David Wood

Lancaster and Morecambe College

Further education

Defence

Afghanistan

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many troops of the 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) are serving in Afghanistan; and how many casualties have been sustained by the regiment in that country. (93558)

[holding answer 16 October 2006]: Details relating to the number of troops from the 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) serving in Afghanistan since its disclosure would reveal the capability of UK forces operating in theatre, and could have a bearing on operational security.

With specific reference to casualties, it is with regret that I confirm that the regiment has sustained three deaths since our operations commenced in southern Afghanistan this year: Corporal Peter Thorpe and Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi on 1 July, and Lance Corporal Jonathon Hetherington on 27 August. Our records do not show any members of the 14th Signal Regiment reported as very seriously ill/injured/wounded or seriously ill/injured/wounded. However, it should be noted that these figures do not include individuals who may have required minor treatment or suffered illness.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps have been taken by International Security Assistance Force troops to engage with local Jirgas and Shuras in Afghanistan. (94705)

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) recognises the importance of engaging with local communities, not only to help deliver security but also as a key element of the work of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, who are there to help deliver better governance and support reconstruction and development. Across Afghanistan, Commanders engage with local community leaders, including through Shuras. UK commanders have done, and continue to do, the same in Helmand province.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his estimate is of the total number of deaths of combatants and non-combatants in Afghanistan since October 2001; and if he will make a statement. (94879)

[holding answer 18 October 2006]: The most accurate figures available for the deaths of coalition and allied troops are on www.icasualties.org/oef. As of 17 October, the total number of deaths of coalition and allied troops was 496.

We have no reliable means of ascertaining the numbers of Afghan combatants or non-combatants killed, but the UK makes every effort to minimise the impact of military action on the Afghan population. Similar principles apply in northern Helmand as for Afghanistan in general.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost has been to the UK of all military operations in Afghanistan since 2001; and if he will make a statement. (97334)

The costs of operations are calculated on a net additional basis and audited figures are published each year in the MOD’s annual report and accounts. The total annual audited figures for the costs of operations in Afghanistan for the years 2001-02 to 2005-06 were £844 million.

Deepcut Review

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Government plans to publish its formal response to Nicholas Blake's Deepcut Review. (69829)

[holding answer 11 May 2006]: Due to an oversight, this question was not answered at the time, however, the Government’s response to the Deepcut Review was published on 13 June 2006. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Departmental Staff

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff in his Department (a) directly employed and (b) employed on contracts were required to support the financial or commercial aspects of defence exports to foreign governments in the most recent year for which figures are available. (93944)

[holding answer 19 October 2006]: The Ministry of Defence provides support to defence exports through the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO). In April 2006 there were some 450 staff in post in DESO. Of those 12 were employed on fixed-term contracts, five of whom were part-time.

In general, the financial and commercial aspects of defence exports are matters for the company supplying the export. But a proportion of DESO staff work in project offices dealing with exports made under Government-to-Government contracts, and the duties of 29 of these staff are mainly concerned with financial and commercial aspects of the projects. None of these is on a fixed-term contract.

A breakdown showing the numbers of staff in DESO was included in the answers given to the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) on 26 October 2005, Official Report, column 376W.

Diego Garcia

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether UK personnel stationed on Diego Garcia have access to the United States detention facilities located there for the purposes of monitoring who is detained in that facility. (96770)

There is no US facility for foreign detainees on Diego Garcia. The only civilian detention centre is at the small UK-run police station.

Engagements

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what meetings the former Defence Secretary, the right hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon), held with (a) US politicians, (b) the CIA and (c) others in the United States in August 2003. (93241)

Far East War Prisoners

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 3 July 2006, Official Report, column 706W, on Far East Civilian Internees, what progress he has made with charities towards aiding those who have not been awarded payments under the 20 year rule. (95621)

[holding answer 23 October 2006]: The position remains as outlined by my predecessor in his answer of 3 July; discussions with a relevant charity are still ongoing. I will write to the hon. Member when I have further information.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he has made towards reviewing those applicants for the Far East Prisoners of War Ex-Gratia Payments Scheme that have not qualified for payment under the 20 year rule; and what factors he is taking into account to determine eligibility. (95623)

[holding answer 23 October 2006]: Eligibility for the 20-year rule is determined in accordance with the published rules; a copy of which was placed in the Library of the House on 26 June. Since the introduction of the new rule, officials have been monitoring and gathering information on its application which includes those claims which do not qualify. An early analysis of any emerging trends is nearing completion and I will be discussing these with the Association of British Civilian Internees Far East Region before final decisions on rejections are made.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the written statement of 17 October 2006 on Far East Prisoners of War Ex-Gratia Payments Scheme, whether civilian claims for the payment submitted before 7 July 2005 will be paid in full. (95768)

[holding answer 23 October 2006]: Civilian claims for a payment submitted before 7 July 2005 will be paid in full if:

(1) the applicant met those residence-based criteria now remaining following removal of the ‘birthlink’ criteria, or

(2) the applicant met the ‘birthlink’ criteria (such cases will be dealt with on a separate ex gratia basis in recognition of the fact that, at the time of their claim, such applicants had a reasonable expectation that the ‘birthlink’ criteria would apply in their case and that they would have been paid had their application been processed more quickly).

Veterans Agency records show that there are three claims in the second category. Action is in hand for these payments to be made.

Financial Digest

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of his Department's monthly Financial Digest for the first six months of 2005-06. (93054)

The term “Financial Digest” refers to previous procedures in the Department which have been updated as our financial management processes have been improved. Officials regularly produce forecasts of expected year-end financial outturn for senior management. These are reflected in the forecasts of Defence expenditure in the Main and Supplementary Estimates formally submitted for parliamentary consideration in the course of the year. Detailed in-year internal forecasts make an important contribution to the development of Government policy. I am withholding their publication as it would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs by inhibiting the free and frank provision of advice to senior management and Ministers, and any exchanges of views for the purpose of deliberation.

Helicopters

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of the helicopters based in Southern Afghanistan are (a) based in (i) Kandahar Province and (ii) Helmand Province and (b) under the direct command of Brigadier Ed Butler. (85799)

[holding answer 17 July 2006]: Brigadier Jerry Thomas took over command of UK troops in Afghanistan from Brigadier Ed Butler on 7 October 2006.

I am withholding details of where our helicopters are based as this information could compromise operational security and put the lives of our personnel at risk. They are based at the most appropriate place to support the UK deployment to Helmand.

UK Forces in Helmand operate under the operational control of the Multi-national Brigade Commander, Brigadier Fraser, who is the Canadian Commander in charge of Regional Command South and under command of Commander International Security Assistance Force. UK forces have tactical command of the helicopter assets and inform Regional Command South's priorities for use of these assets.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) Apache, (b) Chinook, (c) Merlin and (d) Lynx helicopters were in regular service in Afghanistan (i) at the start of the war and (ii) at the latest available date. (95074)

[holding answer 19 October 2006]: As announced on 26 January 2006, Official Report, column 1529, 18 helicopters were to be deployed to Afghanistan: eight AH-64 Apache attack helicopters; four Lynx light utility helicopters; and six CH-47 Chinook support helicopters. The additional deployment of two CH-47 Chinook helicopters was announced on 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 76.

Iraq/Afghanistan

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British servicemen have been killed in the (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan conflict; and how many representatives of British servicemen's families bereaved in each conflict (i) he has met and (ii) Ministers have met on his behalf or on behalf of the Government. (91821)

[holding answer 9 October 2006]: The number of British service personnel killed in Iraq is 119. The number of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan is 40. The Prime Minister and Defence Ministers have met bereaved relatives but they were private occasions and should remain so.

Northern Ireland

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many troops he expects to be based in Northern Ireland on operational duties in 2007. (94914)

Under the updated Security Annex to the Joint Declaration published by the Government in August 2005, the number of armed forces personnel (Navy, Army and RAF) based in Northern Ireland on operational duties under Operation BANNER is planned to reduce from some 8,050 as at 15 September this year to no more than 5,000 by 31 July 2007.

Under the terms of the updated Security Annex, and assuming a continuing enabling environment, there will be a permanent peacetime garrison of no more than 5,000 based in Northern Ireland after 31 July 2007. This will reflect the Government’s global defence commitments, although some Northern Ireland or Great Britain based personnel will continue to provide a residual level of Army support to the police (for example, providing specialised ordnance disposal and, if needed, support for public order as described in Patten recommendations 59 and 66). The number of troops needed for these operational tasks will naturally depend on Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) requirements, but I very much welcome the PSNI’s increasing ability to carry out their tasks without military support and look forward to this continuing.

Nuclear Weapons

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts on the future of the UK nuclear deterrent. (94992)

It remains our intention that decisions on the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent will be taken later this year. Officials are now working to prepare for these decisions and, as part of this work, we are getting information from a variety of sources. I am withholding the detail of any specific discussions with other Governments as this would, or would be likely to prejudice international relations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the level of national security of UK allies who have chosen not (a) to retain and (b) to obtain a nuclear weapons capability. (95217)

[holding answer 19 October 2006]: We do not make assessments of the national security arrangements of our NATO allies.

Operational Bonus

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the new operational bonus will be liable to (a) employee and (b) employer national insurance contributions. (94580)

[holding answer 17 October 2006]: The new operational bonus, to be called “operational allowance”, will not be liable for either employee or employer national insurance contributions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the eligibility criteria for the new operational bonus. (94583)

[holding answer 17 October 2006]: Yes. The eligibility criteria will form part of the regulations for the operational allowance; the regulations will be placed in the Library once they have been finalised.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the first payment of the new operational bonus to be paid to armed forces personnel. (94584)

[holding answer 17 October 2006]: The first payment of the new operational bonus, to be called “operational allowance”, will be made as soon as possible. Priority will be given to those returning (or who have already returned) from operational locations that qualify for the allowance.

Psychological Operations Units

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many psychological operations units are established in the field army; how many personnel are assigned to these units; and what his plans are to expand or establish additional units for this role. (95703)

[holding answer 20 October 2006]: There is one psychological operations unit established in the field army, which is 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group. It is currently in the process of expansion from a primarily reservist to a regular unit, and is established for 71 personnel, both regular and reserves, drawn from all three services. There are no further plans to expand or establish additional units for this role at the present time.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many employees of the BBC have attended courses or seminars at Ministry of Defence establishments relating to psychological operations or psychological warfare activities since 1997. (95704)

[holding answer 20 October 2006]: The term “psychological operations” replaced “psychological warfare” in MOD doctrine prior to 1962, as explained in the preface to then War Office Pamphlet Guide 9729. Consequently no employees of the BBC have attended courses or seminars at MOD establishments relating to psychological warfare in the period concerned.

Psychological operations training relocated to Chicksands in April 1997. Central records indicate that no employees of the BBC have undergone training there. Guest speakers are invited periodically to present on psychological operations courses. No employees of the BBC have done so at Chicksands and we have no records of any BBC employee ever being invited in such a capacity. We are, however, aware of one BBC employee who attended a presentation by 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group at HQ Land Command in 1999.

Stolen Military Equipment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) handguns, rifles and other firearms, (b) ammunition and munitions, (c) radios, (d) vehicles and spare parts, (e) computer equipment, (f) protective equipment, (g) office equipment and (h) mess silver, artworks and furnishings have been reported (i) missing and (ii) stolen from military establishments since 2001. (96834)

[holding answer 25 October 2006]: The above information is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Trident

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the costs of decommissioning the (a) submarines and (b) missiles and warheads of the current Trident system. (96660)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 778W to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn). The indicative decommissioning liabilities are subject to periodic review.

Treasury

Pensions

13. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to discuss the taxation of pensions; and if he will make a statement. (97068)

18. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to discuss the taxation of pensions; and if he will make a statement. (97073)

Treasury Ministers regularly meet DWP Ministers to discuss a range of issues, including the taxation of pensions.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of public sector pensions as a share of gross domestic product in (a) 1980, (b) 1990 and (c) 2000; what forecast he has made of the equivalent cost in (i) 2010, (ii) 2020, (iii) 2030, (iv) 2040 and (v) 2050; and if he will make a statement; (96007)

(2) what recent estimate he has made of the total share of public spending which will be accounted for by public sector pensions in (a) 2035 and (b) 2045;

(3) what recent estimate he has made of the proportion of public spending on public sector pensions in each year from 1980-81 to 2050-51; on what assumptions for (a) the discount rate and (b) longevity these estimates are based; when these assumptions were last updated; and if he will make a statement.

Current estimates and future projections (over the next 50 years) of public service pensions as a share of GDP and of total public spending are available in the two Long Term Public Finance Reports published in 2004 and 2005. Comparable historic figures could not be provided without disproportionate cost.

A note by the Government Actuary’s Department and Her Majestys’ Treasury on the assumptions used for the unfunded pension projections in the LTPFR was laid in the House of Commons Library in June 2006.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of unfunded public sector pension liabilities in each year since 1980; (96008)

(2) when the next estimate of the total public sector unfunded pension liability will be available; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what recent estimate he has made of the total unfunded public sector pensions liability; what this liability was in each year since 1990-91; on what assumptions his estimate is based; and if he will make a statement.

Total unfunded public service pension liabilities are estimated to be £530 billion at 31 March 2005. The two previous comparable estimates of this total were £460 billion at 31 March 2004, and £425 billion at 31 March 2003. The estimates for years prior to 2003 were not made on a comparable basis. Comparable information is not held on the liabilities of the funded local government pension scheme or other funded public sector schemes.

An explanation of the basis for the estimate of the total liabilities at 31 March 2005 and of the reasons for the changes from the comparable figure at 31 March 2004, which covered the assumptions used, was given in the technical note ‘Total Liability of Unfunded Public Service Occupational Pension Schemes as at 31 March 2005’ which my predecessor placed in the Library of the House on 2 March 2006.

The most recent estimate was based on figures that were published in 2004-05 resource accounts. Resource accounts are published annually and accounts for 2005-06 for most of the unfunded public service schemes are now available, but, until all of them are available, it is not yet possible to calculate a comparable total at 31 March 2006.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which section of his Department is responsible for analysis of the costs of public sector pensions; and if he will make a statement. (96009)

Sections of the Treasury responsible for public service pensions policy, long-term fiscal policy, and public expenditure forecasting undertake central analyses of the cost of public service pensions, consulting internally and taking advice from the Government Actuary’s Department as appropriate.

Other Government Departments undertake analyses of the costs of individual public service pension schemes in line with the responsibilities of Ministers towards those individual schemes.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of total government revenues from public sector employee pension contributions in the latest year for which information is available; and if he will make a statement. (96013)

Rounded to the nearest £0.1 billion, employee contributions to unfunded public service pension schemes were £4.5 billion and employee contributions to the funded Local Government Pension Schemes were £1.7 billion in the financial year 2004-05.

Government do not hold aggregate estimates of employee contributions in the wider public sector.

Financial Inclusion

14. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department is taking to improve levels of financial inclusion; and if he will make a statement. (97069)

The Government’s £120 million Financial Inclusion Fund is supporting new initiatives to increase access to banking, affordable credit and face-to-face money advice, with around 450 new money advisers. An independent Financial Inclusion Taskforce is monitoring progress and I will report to the House on next steps in the new year.

Gas and Electricity

15. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with energy suppliers on the recent reductions in the wholesale costs of gas and electricity. (97070)

The recent reductions in the wholesale costs of gas and electricity are very welcome, and show how the new gas import infrastructure is delivering.

Regulation of the gas market is a matter for Ofgem which has said it will monitor the market carefully to ensure that reduced costs incurred by suppliers are passed on to consumers in appropriate timescales.

Millennium Development Goals

16. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he had at the recent International Monetary Fund meetings on progress on meeting the millennium development goals. (97071)

20. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he had at the recent International Monetary Fund meetings on progress towards the millennium development goals. (97075)

The international community, and this Government, attaches the highest importance to assisting countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. In Singapore, at the time of the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, this commitment was reinforced through: a pledge from donors to deliver on their Aid-for-Trade commitments; welcoming continued progress to a pilot Advanced Market Commitment for Pneumococcus by the end of the year; and further progress in developing plans for delivery of the education MDG in 17 countries, resulting in getting an additional 25 million primary school-aged children into school.

Child Trust Fund

19. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of Child Trust Fund take-up; and if he will make a statement. (97074)

The Child Trust Fund’s success has exceeded our expectations. The latest set of account opening figures were published by HM Revenue and Customs on 29 September. These showed that over 1.8 million Child Trust Fund accounts have now been opened, with over 75 per cent. of parents using their child’s voucher to open an account within the 12 month deadline. Early evidence from providers suggests that there have been significant additional contributions into children’s accounts.

Private Finance Initiative

21. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much private finance initiative expenditure has been categorised as (a) on-balance and (b) off-balance sheet since 1997. (97076)

The asset/liability value of PFI/PPP’s that are “on” the Government balance sheet should be available from the resource accounts of the contracting authority and these are also scored in capital departmental expenditure limits (DEL). Data on all projects that have reached financial lose can be found on the HM Treasury “PFI Signed Deals List” on the HM Treasury website:

www.HM-Treasury.gov.uk

The balance sheet treatment of PFI projects is determined by an independent auditor following United Kingdom generally accepted accounting practice, including financial reporting standards issued by the independent Accounting Standards Board (ASB).

World Trade

22. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what financial support he plans to provide to facilitate a resumption of world trade talks. (97077)

To ensure that all countries, including developing countries, can share the benefits of world trade and globalisation, turn the rhetoric of Doha into positive progress, it is vital to provide increased support to developing countries for aid for trade. The UK alone committed to spend £100 million a year by 2010 on the institutions and people needed to support trade. Our total support for aid for trade, including support for infrastructure–like roads, ports, power and telecommunications–is expected to increase by 2010-11. This would equate to $750 million a year in 2010.

Euro

23. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he next expects to make an assessment of the five tests for joining the Euro. (97078)

The Government's policy on membership of the single currency was set out by the Chancellor in his statement to the House of Commons in October 1997, and again in the Chancellor's statement on the five tests assessment in June 2003. The Chancellor announced in Budget 2006 that:

“the Government does not propose a euro assessment to be initiated at the time of this budget.”

The Treasury will again review the situation at Budget time next year as required by the Chancellor's June 2003 statement.

Braille

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements exist for correspondence in Braille with blind or partially-sighted claimants for tax credit. (97209)

HM Revenue and Customs will, on request, provide written information in a number of accessible formats such as Braille, audio and large print. A home visit could also be offered to some claimants where this is considered to be more suitable.

Child Care

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many (a) women, (b) men and (c) men who are the only wage earners in their households are exempt from paying tax on child care; (97274)

(2) how much tax exemption on child care has cost in terms of revenue foregone in each year for which records are available.

Employers and employees are not required to report the provision of tax-free employer supported child care provided to employees since the tax and national insurance contributions exemptions were introduced in April 2005.

Departmental Expenditure

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) which of his Department’s Ministers are members of the HM Treasury gymnasium; and what the cost of such membership is per annum; (97022)

(2) whether the (a) running costs and (b) membership fees of HM Treasury’s gymnasium are subsidised from public funds; and if he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) on 18 October 2006, Official Report, column 1256W. Membership for the gym is available at the cost of £17.50 a month.

Employment

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the total number of people of working age in the UK not in employment for each year from 1976 to 2006, broken down by (a) lone parents, (b) unemployed, (c) those not working because of illness on disability, (d) carers and (e) other classifications; and if he will make a statement. (96537)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 26 October 2006:

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question about people not in employment for each year from 1976 to 2006. (96537)

Table 1 gives estimates of the numbers of people resident in the United Kingdom who are not in employment. This includes those unemployed, and people inactive by their reason for inactivity.

Table 2 gives estimates for lone parents not in employment.

Both tables cover the three months ending June each year since 1997. Comparable estimates are not available for earlier periods.

Estimates are taken from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). As with any sample survey, estimates from the LFS are subject to a margin of uncertainty.

Table 1: People of working age1 not in work by reason 1997 to 2006—United Kingdom, not seasonally adjusted

Thousand

Inactive

Three months ending June each year

ILO unemployed

ILO unemploy

Total

Student

Looking after family/home

Temp sick/injured

Long-term sick/injured

Discouraged worker

Retired

Other

1997

9,621

1,994

7,627

1,490

2,541

214

2,114

92

474

702

1999

9,328

1,676

7,652

1,568

2,458

170

2,169

66

513

707

2001

9,187

1,394

7,792

1,648

2,392

187

2,198

33

585

749

2002

9,254

1,434

7,820

1,660

2,381

172

2,220

32

576

779

2003

9,204

1,384

7,819

1,780

2,390

187

2,100

37

562

763

2004

9,276

1,353

7,923

1,822

2,324

185

2,159

34

591

808

2005

9,298

1,349

7,949

1,898

2,306

182

2,132

32

615

783

2006

9,400

1,578

7,822

1,913

2,271

182

2,066

35

584

772

1 Men aged 16 to 64 and women aged 16 to 59. Note: Comparable data not available for 1998 and 2000. Source: ONS Labour Force Survey (LFS)

Table 2: Lone parents1 of working age2 not in work 1997 to 2006—United Kingdom, not seasonally adjusted

Three months ending June each year

Thousand

1997

878

1999

898

2001

846

2002

841

2003

771

2004

847

2005

813

2006

800

1 Refers to people who are neither married nor cohabiting and who have dependent children, who are defined as 0 to 15 year olds, or 16 to 18 year olds in full-time education. 2 Men aged 16 to 64 and women aged 16 to 59. Note: Comparable data not available for 1998 and 2000. Source: ONS Labour Force Survey (LFS)

Helplines

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 21 June 2006, Official Report, column 1891W, on incoming phone calls, (1) how many calls encountering an engaged tone were to (a) tax credit helplines and (b) other helplines; and if he will make a statement; (83329)

(2) how many calls to HM Revenue and Customs helplines in 2006 received an engaged tone; what the reasons were for the proportion of engaged calls as a percentage of total calls; and if he will make a statement.

The following table shows the number of calls receiving an engaged tone for (a) the tax credit helpline and (b) other helplines operated as part of HMRC’s centrally managed Contact Centre Network.

Calls receiving an engaged tone1, 2005-06

February

March

Tax credits

2

6

Other helplines

6,912

5,887

1 Call attempts where the caller was played an engaged tone.

Note:

Figures in thousands rounded to the nearest thousand.

Engaged tones occur mainly at the busiest periods when callers constantly hit the redial button on modern telephone handsets.

Engaged tone figures for 2006 will be available in the new year.

Life Expectancy

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the life expectancy is of (a) men and (b) women in (i) the East Midlands and (ii) the South East; and what it was in (1) 1996 and (2) 2000 in each case. (96949)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 26 October 2006:

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking what the life expectancy is of (a) men and (b) women in (i) the East Midlands and (ii) the South East; and what it was in (1) 1996 and (b) 2000 in each case. (96949)

Life expectancy figures are calculated as three year rolling averages. The table below provides the period life expectancy at birth for (a) men and (b) women in (i) the East Midlands and (ii) the South East government office regions, in (1) 1995-97, (2) 1999-2001, and (3) 2002-04 (the latest period available).

Table 1: Period life expectancy at birth1, East Midlands and South East Government office regions2,1995-97,1999-2001 and 2002-043Years of lifeMaleFemaleYear3Life expectancy95 percent confidence interval4Life expectancy95 percent confidence interval4East Midlands1995-9774.8(74.7-74.9)79.7(79.6-79.8)1999-200175.7(75.6-75.8)80.3(80.2-80.4)2002-0476.5(76.4-76.6)80.7(80.6-80.8)South East1995-9775.8(75.7-75.9)80.5(80.4-80.6)1999-200176.9(76.9-77.0)81.3(81.2-81.4)2002-04777(77.7-77.8)81.8(81.7-81.9) 1 Period life expectancy at birth is an estimate of the average number of years a newborn baby would survive if he or she experienced the area’s age-specific mortality rates for that time period throughout his or her life. The figure reflects mortality among those living in the area in each time period, rather than mortality among those born in each area. It is not therefore the number of years a baby born in the area in each time period could actually expect to live, both because the death rates of the area are likely to change in the future and because many of those born in the area will live elsewhere for at least some part of their lives. 2 Using boundaries as of 2005 for all the years shown. 3 Three year rolling averages, based on deaths registered in each year and mid-year population estimates. 4 Confidence intervals are a measure of the statistical precision of an estimate and show the range of uncertainty around the estimated figure. Calculations based on small numbers of events are often subject to random fluctuations. As a general rule, if the confidence interval around one figure overlaps with the interval around another, we cannot say with certainty that there is more than a chance difference between the two figures.

Parliamentary Questions

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will answer questions (a) 76207, (b) 76476, (c) 76478, (d) 76482 and (e) 76485 tabled on 8 June, question 78392 tabled on 13 June, question 81148 tabled on 26 June and questions (i) 83329, (ii) 83330, (iii) 83382, (iv) 83793, (v) 83795, (vi) 83796 and (vii) 83812, tabled on 4 July, on tax credits, from the hon. Member for Yeovil. (94097)

Tax Credits

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the highest annual income is which an individual can earn and still qualify for tax credits. (95681)

The maximum income at which a tax credit recipient’s award is tapered to zero depends on the tax credit elements that a family is eligible for, for example number of children in the family, childcare costs, disabled worker or disabled child elements.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the rates of sickness absence were among tax credits staff in each month since April 2005; and if he will make a statement. (95734)

It is not practical to identify sickness absence relating to HMRC staff deployed on all aspects of administering tax credits.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what information on the performance of the tax credits systems he receives on an (a) monthly, (b) quarterly and (c) annual basis; and if he will make a statement. (95735)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 7 July 2005, Official Report, columns 621-22W.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many compensation payments have been made by the tax credits sections of his Department since April 2003; what the total value is of those payments; and if he will make a statement. (96123)

The circumstances in which HM Revenue and Customs will make compensation payments to its customers are explained in the Department’s Code of Practice 1 “Putting things right” which is available at www.hmrc.gov.uk. The Department will pay compensation for reasonable costs incurred as a direct result of its mistakes or delays and to recognise worry and distress caused by those mistakes and delays. It does not keep separate details of compensation payments made specifically due to errors or delays.

For the value of compensation payments made up to 30 September 2005 I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) on 22 November 2005, Official Report, column 1913W.

The value of compensation payments made between 1 October 2005 and 30 September 2006 was around £782,700.

For the number of compensation payments made up to 31 May 2006, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 18 July 2006, Official Report, columns 360-61W.

The number of compensation payments made between 1 June 2006 and 30 September 2006 was around 3,000.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the information technology for the tax credits system is (a) stable and (b) performing well; and if he will make a statement. (96125)

The performance of the tax credit computer system is now stable and delivering flexible, responsive tax credits to 6 million families.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of people (a) declaring bankruptcy and (b) entering individual voluntary agreements as a result of delays in payment of tax credits; and if he will make a statement. (96993)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many people claimed (a) working tax credit and (b) child tax credit in Portsmouth, North in 2005-06; (97294)

(2) how many overpayments of (a) working tax credit and (b) child tax credit in Portsmouth, North were found to be a result of HM Revenue and Customs error in 2005-06.

Estimates of numbers of in-work families with tax credits awards, including information on overpayments and underpayments, for 2005-06 awards will not be available until after family circumstances and incomes for 2005-06 have been finalised.

Provisional estimates for the number of in-work families by constituency with tax credit awards as at selected dates in 2005-06 are available on the HMRC website at:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/personal-tax-credits/cwtc-geog-stats.htm.

Information on overpayments caused by HM Revenue and Customs error is not available at constituency level.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the tax credit take-up levels are for each quarter since April 2003. (97695)

The information is not available in the format requested.

Information on tax credits, including take-up rates and number of families receiving tax credits are available on the HMRC website:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/personal-tax-credits/menu.htm.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent forecast he has made of the gross cost of all tax credits in 2006-07. (97697)

Taxation Levels

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to reduce levels of taxation. (97309)

The Government are committed to a modern and fair tax system, which encourages work, saving and investment, keeps pace with developments in business practice and the global economy, and raises sufficient revenue to fund the Government’s objective to build world-class public services. All taxes are kept under review and are considered as part of the Budget process.

Unemployment (Hendon)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people were unemployed in Hendon in (a) May 1997 and (b) September 2006; and if he will make a statement. (96929)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 26 October 2006:

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about unemployment. (96929)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) compiles statistics of employment for local areas from the annual local area Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Annual Population Survey (APS) following International Labour Organisation (ILO) definitions.

About 5,000 people resident in the Hendon parliamentary constituency were unemployed in the 12 months ending in February 1997 from the annual local area LFS. Latest APS data indicates that around 4,000 people resident in the Hendon constituency were unemployed in the 12 months ending in March 2006.

These estimates, as with any from sample surveys, are subject to a margin of uncertainty. Changes in the estimates from year to year should be treated with particular caution

ONS also compiles statistics for local areas of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). In May 1997, 3,141 people resident in the Hendon constituency were claiming JSA. In September 2006, the equivalent figure was 2,182. These counts are not seasonally adjusted and changes will be affected by seasonal factors.

Prime Minister

Chequers

To ask the Prime Minister when he will publish a list of guests who have been entertained at Chequers. (96379)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 27 March 2006, Official Report, columns 352-53W.

I also refer the hon. Member to the Responses to Requests which are published on the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information publication scheme website (http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/publicationscheme/). Copies have also been placed in the Library of the House. Information for 2006-07 will be published as soon as it is ready after the end of the financial year.

Departmental Staff

To ask the Prime Minister how many staff worked at No. 10 Downing street in each year since 1996-97. (96381)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) on 2 February 2006, Official Report, column 633W.

The total number of staff on the No. 10 payroll on 1 April 2006 was 216.

Gifts

To ask the Prime Minister (1) pursuant to the answer of 9 October 2006, Official Report, column 4W, to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) on gifts, on what basis the decision was made that it would be inappropriate to disclose the information requested; (96822)

(2) when gifts have been given to overseas dignitaries at public cost by his Office in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code at paragraph 10.19 since 1997; to whom such gifts were given; what the gifts were; what the value of each gift was; and whether gifts were offered in exchange in each case.

It would not be appropriate to provide details of the gifts and their cost as to do so could cause offence and discourtesy.

To ask the Prime Minister (1) when he last held discussions with the Cabinet Secretary about the exchange of gifts with overseas dignitaries; what discussions the Cabinet Secretary has with departmental permanent secretaries on the advice they should provide to Ministers on the (a) exchange and (b) offering of gifts to overseas dignitaries; and what consideration has been given to the inclusion of explicit guidance on this issue in the Ministerial Code; (96842)

(2) pursuant to paragraph 10.19 of the Ministerial Code, what the applicable rules are governing the offer of gifts to members of other governments or governmental organisations; and on what basis permanent secretaries determine whether rules are applicable.

Guidance about the giving and receiving of gifts, and the role of permanent secretaries is set out in the Ministerial Code. Information relating to internal meetings, discussion and advice is not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.

Iraq

To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of whether his policy of participation in the Iraq (a) war and (b) occupation has met its objectives. (97052)

I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) at Prime Minister’s questions on 18 October 2006, Official Report, columns 866-68.

Staffordshire Ambulance Service

To ask the Prime Minister what action he has taken in response to his meeting with hon. Members from Staffordshire on the future of the Staffordshire ambulance service and its First Responders. (96554)

Hon. Members have raised with me on a number of occasions the work of First Responders and the case for the maintenance of the Staffordshire ambulance service.

Constitutional Affairs

Carter Report

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the cost to her Department of commissioning the Carter Report into Legal Aid Services. (95693)

The estimated total cost for the Carter Review, which commenced in July 2005 and was completed in July 2006 is £1.5 million.

Departmental Travel

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much has been spent by her Department on (a) chartering aircraft and (b) non-scheduled air travel in each of the last five years. (96223)

It is not possible to list the costs spent on chartering aircraft and non-scheduled air travel in each of the last five years without incurring disproportionate costs as the expenditure is not separately identifiable within the Department’s accounts.

Total overseas travel costs for civil servants for the Department, which includes Court Service (Her Majesty’s Court Service from April 2005), Public Guardianship Office and Department for Constitutional Affairs Headquarters, are set out in the following table:

Period

Amount (£)

2005-06

164,098

2004-05

146,517

2003-04

140,267

2002-03

123,750

2001-02

83,513

In respect of overseas travel by Cabinet Ministers, since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. Where non-scheduled aircraft are used this is shown in the list. Information for 2005-06 was published on 24 July 2006. Copies of the lists are available in the Library for the Reference of Members.

All Ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the “Ministerial Code” and “Travel by Ministers”, copies of which are available in the Library of the House for the reference of Members. All official travel by civil servants is undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the “Civil Service Management Code”, a copy of which is also available in the Library of the House for the reference of Members.

Firearms

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what average sentence was (a) given and (b) served for those convicted of possession of a firearm in each of the last five years. (86791)

I have been asked to reply.

The table shows the average length of custodial sentence (excluding life) imposed by the courts for the various offences involving the unlawful possession of firearms in England and Wales for the years 2000 to 2004, the latest year for which figures are currently available. It is compiled on the principal offence basis. Although care is taken in collating and analysing the returns used to compile such figures, the data are of necessity subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale recording system. Consequently, although some figures may be shown to the last digit in order to provide a comprehensive record of the information collected, they are not necessarily accurate to the last digit shown. Data on average time served, which are obtained from the prison IT system, are not available separately for specific offences as accuracy at this level of detail cannot be guaranteed. We have started a programme of work in the Home Office looking at the quality of existing court sentencing and prison data and how this might be improved.

Average length of immediate custodial sentences (excluding life) for unlawful possession of a firearm at all courts: England and Wales 2000 to 2004

Months

Average sentence lengths (excluding life)

Offence

Statute

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Possessing etc. firearms or ammunition without firearm certificate

Firearms Act 1968 S. 1(1) as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 S.157 Sch.8

16.5

19.2

18.1

21.7

20.7

Possessing or distributing prohibited weapons or ammunition

Firearms Act 1968 S.5(1) as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 S.157 Sch.8 part III

18.7

18.7

21.3

27.3

35.11

Possession of firearms with intent to endanger life

Firearms Act 1968 S.16 as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1972 S.28(2)

43.8

57.8

52.6

63.5

69.2

Possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence

Firearms Act 1968 S.16A (as amended by Firearms (Amendment) Act 1994)

19.5

20.2

18.5

24.3

23.0

Possessing firearm or imitation firearm at time of committing or being arrested for an offence specified in Schedule 1 of the Act

Firearms Act 1968 S.17(2) as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1972 S.28(3)

34.6

21.3

24.4

37.9

33.7

Possessing firearm or imitation firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence or resist arrest etc.

Firearms Act 1968 S.18(1) as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1972 S.28(3)

30.2

45.3

59.2

55.4

58.8

Possession of firearms by persons previously convicted of crime

Firearms Act 1968 S.21(4) as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 S.157 Sch.8 part III

11.8

10.1

16.5

18.9

17.5

1 A minimum five year sentence was introduced for offences committed from January 2004. Notes: 1. Figures are compiled on the principal offence basis—see para. 3.13 of Appendix 3 of ‘Sentencing Statistics 2004, England and Wales’ (Home Office Statistical Bulletin No. 15/05). 2. Although care is taken in collating and analysing the returns used to compile such figures, the data are of necessity subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale recording system. Consequently, although figures are shown to the last digit in order to provide a comprehensive record of the information collected, they are not necessarily accurate to the last digit shown. Source: RDS NOMS 24-07-2006

Parliamentary Ombudsman

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to her answer of 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 1762W, on the Parliamentary Ombudsman, to which recommendations her Department has declined to give full effect. (97378)

The two occasions where the Department has declined to give full effect to recommendations relate to the following two cases A7/03 and A16/03 made under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Information on these cases A7/03 and A16/03 is set out in the Ombudsman’s report “Access to Official Information: Investigations Completed: November 2002—June 2003 (HC 951 July 2003)”, and can also be accessed through the Ombudsman’s website at http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/improving_services/selected_cases/AOI/aoi0306/index.html

Copies of both of the above reports are available in the Library.

Rape Trial Defendants

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many defendants in rape trials were (a) acquitted and (b) convicted in each year since 1997, broken down by the (i) sex and (ii) age of the alleged victim. (88502)

I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is provided in the following table.

Number of defendants found guilty and acquitted1 at all courts for rape offences, for which the age of the victim is specified in the offence description, England and Wales 1997-20042,3

Number acquitted

Found guilty

Female rape offences

Rape of a female child under 13 by a male 4

2004

7

5

Rape of a female aged under 16

1997

235

198

1998

335

221

1999

342

247

2000

335

206

2001

259

178

2002

149

217

2003

346

254

2004

316

275

Rape of a female aged 16 or over

1997

522

286

1998

628

323

1999

589

268

2000

546

277

2001

533

272

2002

261

291

2003

617

294

2004

600

325

Male rape offences

Rape of a male child under 13 by a male4

2004

1

1

Rape of a male aged under 16

1997

20

24

1998

25

15

1999

38

37

2000

34

24

2001

20

26

2002

13

31

2003

21

29

2004

34

28

Rape of a male aged 16 or over

1997

15

9

1998

14

12

1999

24

9

2000

21

12

2001

19

18

2002

11

9

2003

17

6

2004

6

10

1 Includes defendants discharged and dismissed at magistrates courts and ‘not tried’ and acquitted at crown courts.

2 These data are provided on the principal offence basis.

3 Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the police forces and courts. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

4 Offences came into effect in 2004 when the sexual Offences act 2003 came into force.

Communities and Local Government

Departmental Dress Code

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her Department's policy is on the display of religious (a) artefacts, (b) symbols and (c) dress by its staff; how many staff have been subject to disciplinary proceedings regarding this policy in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. (95637)

The Department for Communities and Local Government does not have a policy relating to the display of (a) artefacts, (b) symbols and (c) dress by its staff. None of its staff has been subject to disciplinary proceedings in relation to dress.

Departmental Mail

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what percentage of the Department's mail is shipped using private companies; and what the cost was over the last 12 months. (95138)

The Department for Communities and Local Government was created on 5 May 2006. The following information covers the period from October 2005 to September 2006, and thus includes data for DCLG's predecessor Department, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Less than 1 per cent. by volume of all DCLG/ODPM postal services were provided by a private company at a cost of £1,236.10. This was for the provision of international postal services.

Ecton Lane Park Travellers Site

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the value for money of the spending of her Department's grant for the refurbishment of the Ecton Lane Park Travellers’ site. (97329)

All bids for Gypsy and Traveller Sites Grant are assessed by independent consultants on a number of criteria including value for money. On this basis we were satisfied that the scheme to refurbish Ecton Lane Park Travellers’ site represented reasonable value for money when grant was awarded.

Northampton borough council has undertaken an investigation into the refurbishment of this site. Councils have a general responsibility to secure value for money in the use of funds, subject to scrutiny by the district auditor, and are responsible for taking any remedial action where problems are highlighted.

Supporting People Programme

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will estimate the total (a) savings and (b) costs across all Government Departments associated with maintaining vulnerable people in housing in the community using the Supporting People programme. (97187)

My Department is currently undertaking an assessment of the costs and savings arising from investment in housing-related support through the Supporting People programme. A report from this work will be published in due course.

Sustainable Building

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on what date she plans to introduce the new code of sustainable building. (97847)

Scotland

Engagements

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many (a) public speeches and (b) official visits he has made since 14 March; and how many letters he sent in this period. (96469)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 26 October 2006 to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael).

Ministerial Activity

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what (a) public speeches and (b) official visits he has made on departmental business since 5 May 2005; and how many letters he sent in this period. (92641)

Since his appointment as Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend has made official visits, and made speeches to, some of the key Scottish companies and players in the commerce, industry and energy sectors. In keeping with his specific interests, my right hon. Friend has a meeting tomorrow with the “Big 6” (the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), Institute of Directors (IOD) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)).

The Secretary of State and I have personally sent over 350 letters in this period.

Minister for Women

Departmental Expenditure

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how much was spent by her Office on food and alcohol for its staff working out of office in each year since 2001-02. (91912)

I have been asked to reply.

The Department for Communities and Local Government does not hold the information in the form requested which can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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